How to learn a monologue
Learning a monologue can be a daunting challenge for any actor. The idea of standing and reciting a piece for an extended period of time , with you being the centre of attention sounds like an actors dream. However, you would be surprised how many people dread doing this and also, how much pressure we put ourselves under to make sure we know all the words.
Learning a monologue can be tricky as the first thing we see is how long it is. Our first reaction is 'How am I going to learn all of this?'. But there is no need to panic.
The first thing I would advise is to know your character inside out. Know where they have been, how they feel about the current circumstances and where they are going. If you know the character, you can emotionally sympathise, connect and become that character, making the words on the page make sense to you and ultimately become your words to. The words must come naturally to you if you want your audience to believe you. If all they can see is your brain trying to remember your words, then you are not creating a believable character.
The next step is to break up the monologue into thought structures. This is the best way to learn a huge monologue, as thought structures create mini monologues which appear less terrifying. Read the first couple if lines. Are they the same in terms of what the character wants? If the answer is yes, then those two lines are part of the same thought. Keep reading each sentence. When the character finally thinks about another aim, or maybe even another character, this is the change if thought, creating a new thought structure.
This also helps with channeling your characters state of mind. If you can believably show an audience a change of thought in a character, they will believe your acting and interpretation. So learning sections as thought structures gives you a different energy for each, making the change more prominent and believable.
Each thought structure has a given circumstance and a goal for the character. Find out what their aims are for that thought, and it will help you create that character.
When you reach that thought structure, and you know what the aim and goal of it is, this will click in your memory banks and help you remember the words. The main aim is to associate the thought to the feelings of the character. If you can feel what the character wants, you can associate that feeling with words that the character is saying.
Muscle memory is a great tool for dancers to learn steps, but we use the same techniques in our brains to. So associating this feeling with a thought and words, helps you remember in the same way a beat, lyric or tube helps a dancer remember their steps.
The final thing I always hear when people want to learn a monologue is what method of learning a monologue is the best. People I know have stated that they MUST learn the monologue chronologically. But that isn't always the best method to take on a huge monologue.
Although I personally tend to learn them chronologically, I have had some great success in separating the thought structures and then start to learn the middle thought structure, or start at the end one.
If you mix it up a bit, when you finally attempt to recite, you will feel a sense of relief that you have reached the middle or end thought structure and this will relax you, make you not worry about the remembering of the words and give you the ability to bring out the best in you with the interpretation of your character.